(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. is warning that North Korea risks further isolation from the world community if it moves ahead with a planned rocket launch for later this week and possibly, a third underground nuclear test.
Satellite images obtained by officials in South Korea suggest that Pyongyang is building underground tunnels where it could detonate a nuclear weapon.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland acknowledged on Monday that the U.S. could not say definitively if North Korea is planning a third underground test, which would presumably occur after the launch of what Pyongyang claims is a weather satellite between April 12 to April 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung.
White House press secretary Jay Carney concurred with Nuland that North Korea was risking only more isolation should the launch take place.
Carney told reporters on Monday that Pyongyang’s defiance would derail an opportunity “to rejoin the community of nations and to do something about the extreme poverty and depravation that its people suffer.”
The U.S. has already cut off 240 tons of food that would have gone to children and pregnant women because of North Korea’s decision to conduct the launch. It was just two months ago that Pyongyang told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it would halt nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches.
In a related development, the Pentagon issued a statement late Monday that “Secretary [of Defense Leon] Panetta and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin spoke by phone this evening to discuss the announced North Korean missile launch. Both leaders would regard a missile launch by North Korea as a serious provocation and a violation of North Korea’s international obligations and standing UN Security Council Resolutions.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN